For the past few days I have been out in the country. Like many Czechs my in-laws have a chatu, a small place in the country, usually with minimal facilities but close to nature. On the weekends and in the long warm days of summer you leave the city, and go na chatu. Our’s is in a small village about 50 kilometres from Prague. It is surrounded by many lovely forest trails. There is no television, telephone or internet, and not much in the way of heating so we don’t go there much except in the summer. In the summer, it is very quiet, peaceful. There’s not a lot to do except have barbecues, read, talk and go for long walks and cycle runs.
A few years ago, as is my wont, I had to spoil things by taking my computer along. At the time, I was on one of my periodic writing kicks. I was aiming for 3000 words for the day, and such was the invigorating effect of sun and fresh air that I would get up bright and early, make a start and usually have my day’s stint finished by noon. Some days I would work on and write a lot more than 3000 words.
The strangest thing was that it was so easy. I could remember when it had always been that way. When I was a youngish writer starting out in the world, I had always been able to write like that. At the time, in the cottage, foolishly, I thought I might have mined some new seam of energy and regained the energy and enthusiasm of my youth. I kept writing. The words kept coming.
Until that is we got back to the city.
As soon as we were back in Prague, my productivity dipped. Writing 3000 words a day once again became an epic struggle. I just could not find the time or the energy to do that amount, let alone surge past that target as I had been doing so easily the previous week. Oh well, I thought, it was just a burst of energy I had. Normal service is resumed. It’s time to set your sights lower again.
Occasionally my thoughts would return to this though, slowly, I realised what had really happened. Out at the cottage, I had been writing like I did when I was a young man. Exactly like in those dim and distant days of the 80s and early 90s, back before the Internet.
Out at the cottage there was no way to get onto the World Wide Web. There was no way to explore the wonderful time-wasting possibilities of wilfing. There was no continual stream of emails to be answered. There was no Facebook. No Twitter. No World of Warcraft. There was just me and a word-processor and a lot of time on my hands.
It’s the same every time I go to the cottage. I always get a lot of writing done. When I travel and stay in hotels where I am too cheap to pay for over-priced internet access, the words just flow. I could achieve the same goal simply by walking into my living room and switching off the router. Do I?
Like hell I do!
Still, it’s always there in reserve, for the time when I absolutely must meet a deadline, the awful, thrilling and terrifying prospect of switching off the Internet, a very easy way of increasing my productivity.